Would a Basic Income ‘corrupt’ the poor?

homeless-986420_1920In the 90s, the United States implemented some of the most far-reaching changes to welfare in modern American history. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to “end welfare as we know it” and eliminate welfare’s supposed corrupting influence on the poor. Except the “corrupting influence” of government assistance never existed.

A recent article by the New York Times pointed out that recent research contradicts the theory that a social safety net undermines positive behavior among the poor.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that cash-assistance programs in six low-income countries did not discourage work. Furthermore, a World Bank review of 19 quantitative studies found that cash-assistance in Latin America, Asia and Africa was not wasted on “temptation items,” such as tobacco and alcohol.

“Almost without exception, studies find either no significant impact or a significant negative impact of transfers on temptation goods,” the World Bank report said.

Other supposed negative impacts from welfare, such as birth out of wedlock and encouraging generational poverty, have been demonstrated to be unfounded by other research.

This trove of research demonstrates that the commonly accepted myth about welfare’s “corrupting influence” is not as well-founded as many may believe. However, research has shown clear benefits from the UBI system, including alleviating poverty, increasing entrepreneurship and improving impoverished children’s educational outcomes.

In theory, unconditional assistance may encourage some individuals to frivolously spend their money. In practice, however, the research shows most individuals utilize cash-assistance to better themselves and their families.

About Tyler Prochazka

Tyler Prochazka has written 83 articles.

Tyler Prochazka is a PhD candidate in Asia Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. He is the features editor of Basic Income News and the chairman of UBI Taiwan. Support my work with UBI Taiwan: https://www.patreon.com/typro Facebook.com/TaiwanUBI @typro

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Lynette

    What like the ‘rich’ No I believe it would be like ‘shaking out the rug’

    Lots of jobs would fall away, lots of unnessessary business fall away, parents able to spend time with children – family, farmers free to work the valuable land. It would a bit ‘happy’ crazy for awhile and then the the world would settle and then a lovely burst of art, design and innovative thinking.

    A blossoming a growth and all men are equal……

    What a delicious thought….

  • Karen

    I think the current system has corrupted the rich, encouraged greed, resource hoarding and human trafficking. People don’t realize a precariat class increases the availability of humans for abuse. Many of the poor either had jobs or want jobs, just had those jobs and their wealth re-distributed UP the chain, and this income inequality runs unabated. The rule of LAW has not been enforced due to the rich being able to bypass any checks and balances by throwing money at their impediments. We worry about addiction and other social problems in the poor or precariat classes… why can’t we look at the other end of the spectrum? What happens when people are addicted to control and use resources for everybody else to get it? Why isn’t hoarding money considered kind of an illness that affects society? Those addictions impinge on the rest of society at a level that far exceeds the struggles of the poor.

    • Andre Coelho

      Dear Karen,

      All that is true. And it’s part of the reason why basic income activists around the world are pushing for it. Basic income is a sure way of reducing inequalities and enhancing freedom to all the people who who hunger for it at the moment.

      Best regards,


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